[Spellyans] gwiryoneth

Daniel Prohaska daniel at ryan-prohaska.com
Thu Nov 18 08:55:13 GMT 2010

-----Original Message-----
From: Michael Everson
Sent: Thursday, November 18, 2010 8:39 AM

“> From: Nicholas Williams

>> Lhuyd writes guironeth twice. Guironeth cannot be ascribed to contamination with Welsh. So guironeth is more likely to be genuine than a form in -edh. The final segment was voiceless.


On 18 Nov 2010, at 00:35, Daniel Prohaska wrote:

> In your opinion Nicholas, because it happens to fit your theory of the phonological history of Cornish. But Lhuyd has other words with final <dh> in unstressed syllables.


Yes, Dan. But you haven't addressed the argument, which has been given several times already. We have an explanation for why Lhuyd writes both -eth and -edh in some words. It is that he heard -eth but sometimes wrote -edh because of what Nicholas has just called "contamination" with his native language. He'd never have written -eth if he'd been hearing -edh. It'd be -eth right through. The same can be said for -ev. He couldn't have heard "genev" because the forms by that time were "gene vy" and "genama" or "genam". The -ev is most probably "contamination" with his native language.”


Indeed, contamination may be the cause for his writing -edh – and then again it may not. My point is, we don’t know, and probably never will, so this is hardly a purely rational unbiased approach to the problem, but a demonstration of who is right. I’m not interested in who is right. I don’t care if Nicholas, Nance, George (and after a long list of others), or I, are right. I’m interested in whether there was a possibility that there was [ð] in word-final position in unstressed syllables, as Lhuyd indicates there was. Since Lhuyd is one of our few sources that confirms the existence of [ð] in Cornish we should at least be cautious in our assumptions. 

Being cautious in can mean that we write <th> and occasionally <ȝ> as we see them in the texts, which may be OK for a normalised edition of the Cornish texts, but hardly helpful to the learner of Revived Cornish. 

Or it could mean that we’d be cautious in finding a solution for RC that the learner would benefit from, that would leave open the question of final [θ] v. [ð] rather than dogmatically insist on one person’s phonological theory. I have said this again and again, writing <dh> does not make the form of Revived Cornish in question incorrect or “linguistically unsound”, but would give it an etymological spelling (i.e. C [ð] < Brit. *[d]; C [ð] < Brit. *[j] in hiatus). If there are two schools of thought in the Revival and some speakers want to distinguish [ð] from [θ] in this position and others don’t, then it seems only logical to write the distinction and devoice by rule. Speakers who devoice can do so by pronouncing <dh> and <th> alike in final position, while those who want to make the distinction will know when to make it, which the wouldn’t, if both reflexes were spelt with <th>. Only seems like a logical, sensible compromise and a workable solution in orthographic design. Both “sides” can be correct and pronounce their Cornish as they see fit.  


“Moreover, we see that throughout the system of other consonants we have devoicing in final unstressed position. By Occam's razor we note that the simplest explanation is that (1) the interdental and labiodental fricatives behaved just like the other consonants and devoiced in unstressed final position and that (2) where Lhuyd gives -eð and -ev it is on the basis of Welsh, particularly has he gives them inconsistently as against -eθ.”


Own has shown that Cornish had [z] in this position so either fricatives, or coronals or dental fricatives may have behaved differently. I’d like to err on the side of caution rather than insist upon being right and with that an orthographic reflection of my personal theory.


“Our theory fits the evidence better than the theory that -eð and -ev were operative and that somehow the -eθ in guironeth and other words... erm.... Well, no, I don't think I've heard an explanation.”


That doesn’t make Lhuyds records of Cornish-while-it-was-still-spoken that have <dh> in this position go away. This question, in all fairness, cannot be answered. And insisting on orthographic reflection of a theory is an attempt at making this theory de facto true, while it simply remains a possibility – nothing more.


“In sum, since a decision has to be made as to whether to write -eth or -edh, we prefer the former, because phonologically the explanation is simpler, and because even allowing for doubt we know that we are not making a mistake if we write -th as the texts do.”


In that case we would have to write <th> everywhere and not make an orthographic distinction between <dh> and <th> at all. Hardly easy for the learner.  

Since <dh> can easily be devoiced by rule, there is no real problem. Just your insistence on being right.


“This is not rash, and it is not unfounded in strong and sensible reasoning.”


I beg to differ.




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